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L.J. Rohan

L.J. Rohan

Gerontologist

Aging Well in 12 Steps

November 9, 2020

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Lao Tzu

To adapt Lao Tzu’s proverb to this case, the journey toward aging well starts with one step: choosing to make YOU a priority.

As a gerontologist, I am asked every day, “What do you do to age more vibrantly?” Some days it’s an easy answer because I am walkin’ the walk and talkin’ the talk. Other days, I want to pull my head inside my collar like a turtle because I have temporarily fallen, not only off the wagon but into the ditch beside it!  I heartily admit since the beginning of the pandemic, staying with the program is harder. Some days I just bag it and go to bed with a book and George beside me. But, I understand that these days especially, it’s important to treat myself with a gentle hand.

What is the very good news about getting sideways with what we know are good practices? Each morning we all start with a fresh page and a new opportunity to make better choices, to step back on the path toward aging vibrantly. That’s the perennial blessing, and I’m most grateful for it.

If this is the first of my blogs you are reading, please read these words several times:

  • The Journey Starts With a SINGLE Step
  • Don’t Beat Yourself Up About Getting It Perfect
  • Do Your Best and Give Yourself Lots of GOLD STARS For Each New Choice You Make and Adopt

Today, I want to talk about times when I’m firing on all cylinders and doing what I know to do to keep my body, mind, and spirit humming at their peaks. Please know for sure, I didn’t implement all these choices (listed below) into my routine at once, and I don’t recommend you try to either. Start SMALL. Pick one, two or, if you are very ready, three, practices to adopt now. Give it some time for those to become habit before adding any more. The journey is our lifetime, and we can only take one healthy aging step at a time.

aging well in 12 steps

My Top 12 Choices To Help Me Age More Vibrantly

For My Body:

The science tells us as we get older we sleep less deeply and often wake earlier than when we were younger. I am experiencing this in my own life in the last few, post-menopausal, years. To counter these changes, I now strive to turn out the lights by 11:15 pm. This has truly been one of the best choices I have made, ever.

  • I exercise almost every day for forty-five minutes to an hour, getting my heart rate up to 85% max.

Once a week I tap dance for an hour (This counts under My Mind, too!) and I pick from a buffet of exercise options on the other days:

  • Brisk walking (my #1 go-to)
  • Interval training
  • I ride my road bike
  • Riding the stationary bike (a great chance to catch up on my reading!)
  • Lifting free and stationary weights
  • Swimming
  • Zumba (virtually, lately)

I avoid sugar, flour, hard liquor, and all processed food while consistently reaching for organic whole foods.

Most days I do well at this one; some days, well, not so much. I have no trouble avoiding all processed foods and hard liquor, but I sometimes get squidgy around baked goods. The good news: each day I have a clean plate on which to fill with better choices.

This one I can honestly say is the easiest for me, as I have been taking handfuls of supplements since I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis at twenty-two, some thirty-nine years ago. Drinking the water has also become an ingrained habit. One thing I do notice: if I short myself on the water, I feel it the next day, so that keeps me honest.

For My Mind:

  • I meditate for fifteen minutes almost every morning.

Especially since the pandemic, meditation keeps me calmer, more balanced, and better able to deal with these very trying times. I might even take a lie-down and do a mini-meditation during particularly difficult days.

  • I get my news from the newspaper, only. I do not watch the news on TV, or have it in my Facebook feed, or anywhere else.

Research tells us how much more harmful negative images—either moving (TV) or still (social media) can trigger anxious feelings of fear, depression, and seeing the glass as bone dry. Limiting my news input to only the written word has kept me sane.

  • I practice being grateful every day for what happens in my life. Since I can control my thoughts, why not pick good ones?

Ten years ago, I bought a piano and started taking lessons. Acquiring new skills is so important at our age. Research shows the benefits for of learning to play a musical instrument are overwhelming. 

Spirit:

I take time some mornings and almost every night to write down not only things I am grateful for but also things I am appreciating at that moment. There is a subtle difference between these two experiences, and I feel both are worth noting in my special notebook. This practice also helps me let go of regrets and embrace forgiveness.

  •  I connect daily with one or more friends who love and support me and who fill me up.

Sometimes this is on the telephone and sometimes it’s over a socially distanced meal or walk. Staying connected to my uplifting pals is as important to me as breathing. I see this choice as vital to healthy aging.

A frustrated clothing and jewelry designer/maker, as well as a yellow-thumbed gardener and avid recipe-experimenter, I get cranky if I ignore my creative side for too many days. These spirit-nurturing hobbies add purpose to my life and keep me grounded and happy.

Nature feeds my spirit, and as many scientists, including Dr. Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller, author of Forest Bathing have shown, Mother Earth replenishes us when we soak in her beauty, fragrances, sounds, and atmosphere. Nature is a spirit healer, like no other.

I know this is a long article, so I will close here by saying one more time:

Go Slowly! Begin by picking one or two choices from my list. Add them to your daily routine and enjoy the experience of a more Vibrant Life!

And, until next time…Be Vibrant!